Media, Demand Katrina Accountability
Published on Thursday, September 8, 2005 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Media, Demand Katrina Accountability
by Colleen Patrick

The catastrophe in New Orleans was avoidable.

Not the storm, but its deadly effect on the population, the horrific demolition of buildings and geography.

Wetlands, which constituted part of the wall of protection with the levees, were deemed no longer worthy of protection by the Bush administration and were replaced with buildings and malls created by developers.

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a severe hurricane. In fact, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project to deal with those problems. In fact, 100,000 people in New Orleans were identified as those without means to evacuate in the event of such a disaster.

The mayor of New Orleans mandated an evacuation from the city -- without executing a physical plan to transport those poor and infirm without any means to evacuate.

Federal money to support the levees, to upgrade and reinforce them, however, was diverted to pay for the war in Iraq after 2003. Scientists had long been warning the Gulf region of a level 5 hurricane hit.

Instead of taking the warnings seriously, protecting wetlands or building levees capable of guarding the city against a level 5 hurricane, the Bush administration and local government agencies supported developers and the war in Iraq.

Had those priorities not cost thousands of American lives, there would be no issue. But the Bush administration and local government supported them instead of the means to protect New Orleans.

So in an attempt to "fight terrorists over there" so we don't have to fight them "over here," thousands of Americans will pay with their lives "over here" for these priorities.

After 9/11, the media were handcuffed to White House sources and pressure when it came to making those responsible accountable for the extensive intelligence and homeland protection failure.

We heard over and over -- just as we're hearing today -- "don't point fingers." "Don't try to politicize this, we need to focus on helping the victims. ... There's a time for reviewing what went right and what went wrong, it's just not today."

Alas, the media bought it.

Criticizing is not politicizing.

President Bush noted Tuesday that it's time not to blame, but to figure out how to solve the problems incurred by Katrina. "We're problem solvers," he said.

Um, no, you are not. Problem solvers would have prevented this debacle.

Media, please don't fall for the "don't point fingers, don't politicize this problem, pay attention to the victims and helping people recover, not what caused this" bull.

This type of spin from 9/11 investigators left us vulnerable to believe misinformation about going to war with Iraq.

Today, many in Congress stress that if they knew then what they know now, they would not have supported the war in Iraq. People who knew the truth at that time about the Bush administration's misinformation are only now standing up and telling us that truth.

Government can respond quickly, remember that Congress flew into an instant frenzied session when considering the hysteria surrounding the Terri Schiavo case.

If terrorists carried out this sort of attack, the evidence is clear -- we would be no more prepared than we are today, which is less prepared than we were for 9/11. Less prepared? We are demonstrably unprepared.

The only way this nation will ever develop a genuine, effective plan of action to deal properly with any disaster -- natural or otherwise -- is to investigate and report every aspect of this story; every individual, every priority that has failed a million people in the Gulf area and our nation at large. Expose those who want to cover up the truth and why.

Tell us about the real patriots who tried to make sure this disaster did not happen, but were ridiculed, terminated or ignored.

Kick tires. Take names. Find heroes. Be our watchdog. Make those responsible accountable so our government finally can create a plan of protection for any disaster that works, that actually protects us.

Colleen Patrick, Seattle, is the former reader advocate for The Seattle Times.

© 2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer